Reflections on Cricket..


We have been through in what could be The dramatic Cricket World Cup ever. When 99 happened, aka the gripping semifinals between South Africa and Australia,everyone thought that was the best match, ODI cricket has ever seen. [SA, 9 wicket down needed 9 to get off last over,Klusener hit 2 boundaries and he along with Allan Donald couldn’t manage one more single buckling under pressure].For the fact that it was a tie, for the fact that Australia made it through to the finals because of their better run rate, the dramatic scenes, everyone thought we had seen it all. But NO!! We had to witness another drama unfold, one could never have imagined,that too in a prestigious World Cup final at Mecca of cricket-Lord’s. Every since,much has been talked about,debated at lengths,with generous amount of What if’s, because the match ended in a TIE, AGAIN on a World Cup FINAL TWICE. Notwithstanding, Some one of a kind, never seen before scenarios.CRUNCH moments got Crunchier as the stakes were high. To start with, in the dramatic final over, a grounded shot of quick 2 runs near the boundary turned to 6 runs(invaluable in the context of the game) because of a deflected overthrow (When have we seen this happen in the past?Ball ricocheting off the bat and across the boundary for four) due to which England managed to get 14 runs. At this moment, they were happier to go into Super over as they got 14 runs of Boult’s last 4 balls after scoring nil in first 2 balls.So to break the tie, Super over was undertaken(Introduced in place of Bowl-out.Remember India v Pakistan in 2007 T20 WC? ) and to the surprise of it, we had SAME result, a TIE. So what you do? Rules come into play and team which hit more boundaries(during the entire match including the super over) wins the match(This rule which is under scrutiny was introduced from T20 international and professional leagues). To be fair to England,  this rule was well known to both the teams, but for the fact that this scenario of Super over ending in a tie never occurred.

Not too far away from Lord’s, during the same time, in Wimbledon there was an equally engrossing match between two champions Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.[Lot for work for the TV remote as alt button was pressed umpteenth time to switch between channels.Cant miss both the matches, you see :)] In a very rare occasion, the 5th set moved to a tie breaker. And the match continued until one player bowed down to hand over the trophy to the deserved winner. Match ended in 13-12 in favor of Novak, a historic win in 5th set tie breaker.To take a leaf out of Wimbledon, it would be much better if winner was decided based on some valid criterion. May be, another super over to break the tie.Because New Zealand never lost. It must have been devastating and frustrating to end their successful World Cup campaign like this. Lot of practice, hard work, strategic thinking goes into the preparation(over a period of 2-3 years), to compete in a prestigious and high profile tournament like this. All 22 players on the field played well, but only 11 players were celebrating. Lots being said about Kane Williamson’s leadership and state of composure he showed in such a heart breaking/devastating outcome. It was only fitting for him to carry the Man of the Tournament award for steering his team through from challenging situations in many occasions. So,England,gallantly fought their way through to win knockout games at the fag end of league matches against tough opposition and in the semis with their nemesis,to win the World Cup for the very first time. In the end, they looked like the tough team to beat and deserved to win, albeit with a fairy tale ending.

Pic courtesy: ESPN Cricinfo

Usually the cricket series just after a high profile tournament like World Cup looks boring or too much of a overdose. Not this time though, as Ashes series is starting soon.There is always a sense of excitement within cricket fraternity leading to the build up to the series, as it is most celebrated series amongst the Cricket’s most enduring rivalries.Oz would be hungry to get their act together against the newly crowned World Champions. What makes it more exciting is there is lot of context coming in for Test series starting from Ashes series. For next 2 years, Top 9 Test teams will be competing for World Test Championship making all the upcoming Test series more alluring and exciting. India is set to start their Test championship campaign with West Indies tour. Each team is ought to play 6 Test series (3 Home and 3 away) over the next 2 years to grab points after each match. At the end of 2 year cycle, Top 2 teams will compete in 5 day match to own the first ever prestigious World Championship(in line with ODI and T20). In a move to make Test cricket popular(especially dwindling young fans) and grab the attention of spectators at the ground and cricket fans in general, this seems to be a very good move. After lot of pondering over reducing Test matches from 5 to 4 days,  introduction of Day Night matches, this is a welcome move.

Pic courtesy: ESPN Cricinfo

For cricket connoisseurs, just like the cricketers, TEST cricket is the ultimate contest. I am excited and looking forward for pulsating encounters of Red Ball Cricket,a mouth watering prospect. Are you excited? Thoughts? 

Rivalry=>Trivalry=>Quadvalry


Is this a good generation to be in to watch tennis especially Grand Slams? I believe so. I ain’t an expert; I only started watching tennis in late 2006. But seeing the way how hard it’s fought especially in the fag end of the tournament with quality tennis involved, I believe so. Haven’t seen much of Pete Sampras or Agassi play tennis, but I like the crop of players coming up starting from Roger Federer .

First up,lets talk about Roger Federer.He has an aura like Sachin Tendulkar has in cricket. When he came, he conquered and played better tennis like no one else do. He was and is the undisputed champion and one of the best to hold the tennis racket.He is the one who demands respect from all quarters whether you like his game or not.Someone has rightly said, it’s easy to get to the top but it takes guts and determination to maintain your position at the top.A 237 consecutive week stretch at the top from 2004-2008,that’s Roger Federer for you.

Then came Rafael Nadal and challenged him at his game.Forced him to work harder for a win. That was a golden period for me to just start of watching the great rivalry and these two great players compete. Everyone used to long for that big final where more often than not these 2 players landed up. I like this game, no sledging or teasing as in cricket, it’s all in the mind. A stare or a quiet and small celebration for winning a point with crowds cheering and then back to square one and you are focused on your next serve.Rafael Nadal-The King of Clay as he is often called, beat Roger at clay twice in 2006 and 2007 when Roger had won all other 3 grand slams of the year. That says something of how good Nadal was in Roland Garros. Nadal even went onto challenge Roger at grass in Wimbledon where he held his fort for long. Tat 2008 Wimbledon win over Roger in an epic 5 setter match is still the best I have seen in numerous contests between these two champs.From 2006 to 2008 they have played against in every French Open and Wimbledon final. Nadal younger than Roger known for his power hitting and stamina coupled with Roger’s class and elegance,made a great rivalry and a treat to all tennis fans.

Meanwhile Djokovic quietly made his mark by winning 2008 Australian Open and beating Federer in the semis. On both occasions- in 2008 and 2011,Djokovic beat Federer in straight sets in the Australian Open.In 2011, he went onto win 3 grand slams except French Open beating the best in the process and thus making an ascent to World Number 1 ranking.In 2012 Australian Open,he won an 5 set thriller defeating Andy Murray in the semis with the best yet to come in the finals. In the finals, in what could be the longest Grand Slam match in Open Era clocking at 5 hour 53 minutes he won an epic 5 set grueling match defeating Nadal. Nadal played equally well and it could be anybody’s game but seriously anyone would want to win an epic as big as this.That was something special from Djoker as he is fondly called. But Nadal avenged his Australian Open defeat by beating Djoker in Roland Garros. From Fedex-Rafa rivalry , it turned into Fedex-Rafa-Djoker trivalry.

Andy Murray felt left out when he went so close to win one but eventually fell short by some distance to win a Grand Slam.He was defeated by Federer in 2008 US Open and 2010 Australian Open both in straight sets and in 2012 Wimbledon in a 4 setter. Andy lost 3 consecutive grand slam semis to Nadal in 2011. They have never met in a grand slam final. 2012 US Open marked his first Grand Slam win by defeating Djoker in a 5 setter match. But turning point for him was winning Olympic Gold final match over Roger Federer just weeks after getting defeated in Wimbledon and also winning against Djoker in the process. After this win, he looks as good as the Big 3 with a belief to win against anyone. He went onto win a first grand slam match by defeating Federer in this year’s Australian Open in yet another epic encounter. However Djoker defeated Andy in a 4 setter final to mark his hat trick in Australian Open.Going by 2012 Grand Slams, each one of the 4 champs has won a  Grand Slam- Novak started off with Australian Open, Nadal clinched French open trophy,Federer was Wimbeldon champion and Murray won US Open.So with Fedex-Rafa-Djoker-Andy the trivalry has turned into a quadvalry.

Hope this Big 4 continue to perform and give us many such epic encounters.

P.S.- I have one unfulfilled wish. I want to see both Nadal and Federer in a final that too in a French Open preferably the next one..I want it to be a 5 setter with Federer winning dramatically.
Smile